Thursday, September 29, 2005

There's "living" and then there's "making a living"

We need money in our lives. It gets us the shelter we need, the food we need, the transportation we need and so on. Money does not pump blood into our veins nor will a dollar bill kill us, yet we treat money (or the threat of lack of it) like it a life or death matter. I understand its importance but I believe making and having enough money to live on is not the only priority in my life.

I've been fortunate enough to make a living doing what I've wanted to do for a while now. I wanted to work in radio or something related to it, but I never set out to do just one thing. People tell me I have a voice for radio but I don't think my voice is only destined for it. I have the mindset to understand how the field works and what all comes with it. I never would have guessed as to how things were to work out back when I graduated in December of 2001. Going from being a promotions assistant to being a producer to being a producer and a reporter in the following years, each one luckily gravitated towards the other when it was time to move on.

I paid my dues before I could afford to pay for everything in my life with my own money. I definitely paid my dues before I could pay the rent, as Stephen Malkmus put it best in Pavement's "Range Life." There were some rough times after college where I needed my parents to partially help me out financially, so I'm eternally grateful for their support. However, their support was not just from a bank account; it was from their neverending moral support. At times, they believed in me way more than I believed in myself.

It was in these years that I felt I was just working all the time to hide from past unresolved issues. I felt that it was the only way I could mentally deal with my evaporating relationships with people I knew from college. Well, I couldn't get the guilt of those finished or about to be finished relationships out of my head even with a 55-hour work week. Here I was working every day for months straight and rarely having a day off (other than the days where I was so sick that I could not work). I felt I had hit a massive wall in my life. I was making enough money to support 90% of all my expenses and here I was frequently listening to records, on the internet, watching movies and watching late-night TV trying to cover up the holes in my life. Emotionally, I was on life support.

When that pile of shingles hit my head on March 1st, 2004, it was the beginning of finding another path of thinking. By the end of the day I was getting ready to interview Adam Pfahler of Jawbreaker via e-mail. By the end of that week, I had Kim Coletta from DeSoto Records/Jawbox and Bryan Jones from OffTime Records/Horace Pinker onboard for input for my book. More interviews followed, more writing and researching poured out and I realized how profound what these people I was talking to had to say.

One of these profoundities came in the form of a quote from J. Robbins. I asked him something along the lines of how does making/producing music and making a living from it work for him. He responded, "It can't just be about making a living for me." BAM! Another revelation: Playing/writing/producing/critiquing music may be one's primary source of income but it's the necessity of listening/creating/critiquing it sans the thought of making any money doing it stirs the creative side of the soul.

Now that I've realized that I don't have to mentally beat myself up with shame and guilt over things that I can't (or couldn't) control, I know that me being creative is as important as eating, sleeping and breathing. As Ian MacKaye put it best, "It's not an option for me - I have to do this." Whether or not any money can be made doesn't matter in the creative world. I have the free time now, the drive and the understanding to just live and be creative.

There is a misnomer that you should be paid how much you think you're really worth. I'm sorry, but there is no monetary value to my worth in this world. The fact that I can make any money doing something that works in conjunction with my views on hard work, devotion, understanding and being motivated is true success for me. I refuse to say I "barely" make a living as a producer/reporter based on my annual income. It's a living that allows me enough peace of mind to flex my creative muscles.

I don't sit around and think like I used to think back in college with the thought of "Once I reach this certain age, make this certain amount of money and have a solid relationship with someone, then I'll be complete." After realizing that one's happiness comes from what it is in the now and not was in the past or in the future, I truly am empowered to be alive every day.

There's a large distinction between making a living from a job and there's living to one's best abilities. Please don't take this all as bragging. It's taken me four long years to come to this simple point. I look forward to the years ahead to find an even greater sense of purpose and meaning.


Kev said...

Great post, Eric. I'm sure I'll be referencing it in the near future, as some of this stuff has been on my mind lately as well.

Eric Grubbs said...

Thanks for the kind words Kev.

Eric said...

Definately a great post. Well said.